Cincinnati off the hook for paying taxes on its golf courses, appeals board rules

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati is exempt from paying property taxes on its golf courses, according to a state tax board ruling that, if it stands, will save the city $450,000 a year and possibly bolster its case against paying millions more on the downtown convention center.

The Ohio Board of Tax Appeals ruling on March 6 reversed an earlier decision by Tax Commissioner Joseph Testa that determined Cincinnati had surrendered its tax-exempt status for the golf courses when it hired contractors to run the courses.

The appeals board instead concluded that the courses are still exempt because Cincinnati maintains significant control over operations through its management contract and because it doesn't least the property to the operators.

The ruling can be appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court. The tax commissioner's office has 45 days to decide whether to appeal, and it will take time to decide, said Matt Chafin, chief counsel. Paul Macke, a private golf course operator who initiated legal action challenging the city, was leaning toward an appeal pending discussing the matter with his attorney.

"I've researched this for five years, and I think that the decision is so flawed and in such error it would totally shock me if the tax commissioner's office did not appeal it," he said. "That is my firm belief."

The ruling has broad implications on two fronts:

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